Pay attention to farmers to sustain food security promise: Mukherjee

Chennai, Aug 7 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee Wednesday said the right to food, believed to be the largest social security measure against hunger, can be sustained only if the nation pays attention to farmers and farming to enable more production without causing ecological harm.

The rights-based approach to food "can be sustained only if we pay greater attention to farmers and farming".

"The National Commission on Farmers, chaired by Prof M.S. Swaminathan, has given valuable recommendations for converting the Green Revolution into an Ever-Green Revolution, resulting in higher productivity in perpetuity without associated ecological harm," he said.

Mukherjee was here to participate in the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) founded by the noted agricultural scientist.

"Henceforth, availability of food at an affordable cost will be a legal right to over two thirds of our population. Every Indian can be proud of this transition from the days of the Bengal Famine of 1943 in which over 3 million people died to the implementation of the Right to Food with our own home-grown food," he said.

Stressing the fact that land is a shrinking resource for agriculture, Mukherjee said the only option is to produce more from less land and with less irrigation water.

"This is where the farmer participatory research programme as well as the farmer to farmer learning institutions like the farm schools promoted by this foundation are extremely valuable," Mukherjee said.

He said there is large untapped agriculture potential in eastern India and the future of India's food security system will depend upon the progress made in assisting farmers hereproduce more in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Referring to the budget for 2010-11 he presented as then finance minister, Mukherjee said he had delineated a strategy to extend the green revolution to the eastern region.

"As a result of this initiative, farmers in the selected clusters have adopted good agricultural practices and benefited from the yield advantage of hybrid rice technology. It is important that the Green Revolution in eastern India is provided impetus through synergetic packages of technology, services and public policy," he said.

According to him, climate change is a major threat to India's food security system with drought, floods and extreme weather events likely to become more frequent.

Citing MSSRF's efforts in developing a cadre of Community Climate Risk Managers, Mukherjee said there is a great scope for marrying traditional knowledge and wisdom with modern science in this area.

Expressing concern at the prevalence of widespread malnutrition, he said calorie deprivation due to inadequate purchasing power is expected to be eliminated by initiatives like the food security programme.

Calling to end protein hunger, Mukherjee said as finance minister,he had proposed in the 2011-12 budget the organisation of 60,000 'Pulses Villages' to bridge the demand-supply gap in pulses.

"I am happy to note that we have achieved record production of 18.45 million tonne of pulses in 2012-13. This augurs well for our march towards self-sufficiency in pulses," he said.

On the hidden hunger caused by micro-nutrient deficiencies, Mukherjee said financial provision for a new initiative for organising nutri-farms where agricultural remedies can be applied to overcome nutritional maladies has been included in the 2013-14 budget by Finance Minister P.Chidambaram.

He expressed happiness at honouring the farmers of Kuttanad region in Kerala who began developing techniques for below sea level farming two centuries ago, which is a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS).

"It will be appropriate to recall that the first GIAHS site to be recognized in our country is the tribal farming system of Koraput in Odisha. Kuttanad farmers are the second to receive such a global recognition," Mukherjee said.

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